148. Canopy Secropia

The Cecropia peltata tree you see here is known as an early colonizer or pioneer plant.

These plants are often the first to grow in forest ecosystems disturbed by fires, fallen trees, or new roads. They typically grow quickly, but are not good competitors once their slower growing neighbors become established. 

Cecropia peltata can grow up to seven feet a year and reach canopy height in only 10 years. However, it lives only 20 to 30 years. In that time, it makes millions of seeds that fall to the forest floor or get carried away in the guts of animals. 

The growth of young Cecropia trees helps secure the fragile soil of tropical forests and create the humid environment needed for the seeds of other plants to germinate and grow. These plants then fill in the understory and eventually replace the Cecropia in the canopy.

Look up. Can you see the different layers of our indoor tropical forest?